FF seeks debate on publication of GP and dentist earnings

HSE removed details of payments from website

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 16:18

Fianna Fáil has called for a wide-ranging debate on the publication of the earnings by GPs, dentists and other contractors from the HSE.

The move comes in the wake of the decision of the HSE to remove from its website details of State payments running into billions of euro to thousands of primary care health professionals. This followed the Data Protection Commissioner threatening enforcement action against the HSE unless payment details to individual dentists through the medical card system were removed.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health should discuss the issues arising from the decision of the HSE to stop publishing the details of Primary Care Reimbursement Service payments

He said the HSE had withdrawn the payment details following the intervention of the Data Protection Commissioner. However he said “ issues of transparency clearly arise with regard to how public money is being spent”.

“I am somewhat surprised at this decision by the HSE. For instance, the details of payments to solicitors under legal aid are published so I cannot see why similar details under the Primary Care Reimbursement Service could not be released. TD’s have put parliamentary questions to the Minister for Justice and Equality on this matter and the details have been placed on the Dáil record.

“It is essential that we have a wide-ranging debate on this and I am calling for it to be discussed at the Oireachtas Health Committee. We hear a lot about the money following the patient but we also need the taxpayer to be able to see how this is happening and where the money is being spent.”

The concerns raised by the Data Protection Commissioner followed a complaint to it from the chief executive of the Irish Dental Association, Fintan Hourihan who argued there was no statutory basis or public interest justification for the publication of the payments.

Mr Hourihan welcomed the HSE decision to remove payment details.

In a note on the Irish Dental Association (IDU) website, he said: “The publication of payments also presented a misleading impression when viewed in isolation and suggested dentists were earning inflated levels of income when in fact the payments were to cover the cost for treatments already dispensed. In addition the vast bulk of these payments relate to practice running costs, materials used and everyday overheads with the payment to dentists comprising a very small portion.”

“The HSE also failed to consider whether the publication on a single freely consultable website updated by name relating to all of the beneficiaries concerned went beyond what is necessary for achieving the HSE’s legitimate aims.”